Truth is often stranger than fiction and that is certainly true when it comes to God. When the sense of the divine first glimmered in the human heart long ago we concocted for ourselves a god, more or less, in our own image and likeness. This was a God who was all powerful, and therefore all terrible. A God who had to be served at all costs because this God had created the human being to be a slave. Therefore God had to be served but also placated and paid off because this God could turn angry very quickly, and when God turned angry the human being paid a fearful price. This was a God who presided over a world of fear, the kind of world that St Paul has described in his letter to the Romans – “a world of fear where we are slaves, not sons and daughters.” Left to our own devices tis fictional false God is the best we could come up with, but in fact the real God, so vastly different, comes to our rescue with what we call revelation. We could never have come to know the truth of God but God has revealed to us the truth of who God is. This is no God of fear who creates us to be slaves, this is a God of unimagined and infinite love, who creates us to be son and daughter. It is extraordinary – the truth – far, far stranger than all the fictions, just as this God is far, far more wondrous than all the fictional and false Gods we concoct for ourselves. This is the God who is this seething, infinite abyss of love that can’t do anything but overflow. As the abyss of perfect love overflows, what do we get? The creation. That’s all it is, the billions of galaxies, in all its profusion and majesty and with us at its heart. All that is an overflowing from the abyss of God; that which has flowed forth from the abyss of perfect love will in time flow back into that abyss. From the love we have come forth and to that love we will return. That is the great fact that we celebrate on this Trinity Sunday. The God who is perfect love, therefore we speak of three persons; father, son and Holy Spirit. Sometimes we speak of their function and what they do as creator, redeemer and sanctifier, but three persons we say and bound together by a love so perfect that there is only one God. So the truth of the Trinity is the truth of a perfect love, not some weird, disembodied celestial mathematics but that which lies as the molten core of all things; the abyss from which it has all come and to which it will return.
There have been many attempts to describe and explain the truth of God. Some simple, some less so. St Patrick, in preaching to the pagans of Ireland, took the shamrock that was all around them and said the shamrock is one thing, but it has three elements in its oneness. Others have taken the image of three candles – you light the three flames and put them together you have only one flame, and yet the three candles remain distinct. Others again have spoken of it in terms of a voice, a word and a breath. The father is the voice, but the voice needs a word to speak and the word is the son, and the breath that makes that word possible and communicates is the Holy Spirit. I am using my voice to speak a word to you. I would have a voice even if I were silent but I am speaking a word to you now and what enables me to do that is the breath that hits my vocal chords and produces the sound that you I hope understand. Whatever image you take, or whichever image speaks to you, the truth is the same. It is a truth of Trinity and unity – a truth of perfect love.
Every love that this world knows comes from this abyss, from God, a God who is love. There are many, many different forms of human love on the face of this earth. Every one of them is wondrous. The love of a parent for a child, particularly the newborn. Could there be a purer love than this? A love less earned, and therefore a love more like God. There is also the love of the child for the parent; the love of brothers and sisters. The love of friends, It can also be communal. You may love your country, your city or football team. I may love the church. Whether it be personal or communal it is all love and it is all wondrous. Yet in this vast range of loves that the world knows there is only one that is truly and properly called nuptial – married love, and that is the love between man and woman which is free, not forced, which is lifelong, not just for the time being, and which is open to children, even if they do not come. This then is nuptial love, spousal love in all its uniqueness and wonder. All the loves this earth knows we gather up here today and we acknowledge and celebrate the source, the wellspring from which they come forth. We also plunge into the abyss of the perfect love all that is dark and wounded and unloving and fearful in us and in the world because only in the abyss can all of that be turned to life and all the wounds be healed; can all the fear be turned to love. So that’s what we do on this Trinity Sunday and as we do it, the great cry that rises from the heart of the church, and indeed from the heart of the whole creation, is what is in fact the mother tongue, the language of paradise, the language of ecstasy, the language that we call doxology, this is our mother tongue and we speak it today with one heart and one voice. “Glory be to the father, the son and the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. World without end.” Amen.